Buying a property in Mallorca means entering a labyrinth of laws, regulations, and abstract concepts that bears a fine line separating legality from illegality. Learning to detect those infractions in Mallorca is essential when moving forward with a property venture.
One mistake can make the difference between a legal property, a property qualified for legality, or having to demolish your home.
It’s a fair assumption that sellers don’t intentionally trick the buyer. The trickery lies in the regulations. The regulations are extensive, complex, and confusing. To that end, we will simply call them: confusions.SUMMARY
- The term “Certificate of Occupancy” is not synonymous with legality
- Ilegal properties are not only found in rural areas
- The Certificate of Non-Existence for Urban Infractions does not mean that there couldn’t be other violations on the property
- A construction being filed in the Land Registry does not signify that it is legal
- The Statute of Limitations is not connected to legality
- Some constructions built prior to 1956 are not in legal standing
- Construction on a rural plot under 14,000 squares meters may not be legal
1. It’s a mistake to believe that an Occupancy Certificate means that the property is in good, legal standing
This misconception that an Occupancy Certificate equates to legal status has been said many times and is completely false.
The Occupancy Certificate (Cédula de Habitabilidad) only certifies that the house is suitable to live in and nothing more.
If a house is built today, this certificate cannot be obtained until the property developer receives the part from the municipality. This document is issued by the Town Hall only after having checked that the house has been built with a licence and that the construction matches the licence granted. This means that if the property is not legal in its entirety, the certificate cannot be obtained.
Moreover, a house built before 1987, even if it was deemed illegal at the time of certification, can still have a Occupancy Certificate, or Cédula de Habitabilidad, but will remain an illegal property.
A recently built house could have obtained the Occupancy Certificate and then undergone renovation. Consequently, it becomes illegal, even with the preexisting Occupancy Certificate.
2. It’s a mistake to believe that violations are only detectable on Mallorca’s rural properties
While it is true that the most prevalent violations are on rural land, that doesn’t mean urbanscapes are free of infractions. The majority of violations are in Mallorca’s small towns, but not exclusively.
When an inclined roof is converted to a plain terrace without a licence, there will be many future obstacles in obtaining a renovation licence.
Further, a balcony or closed-in porch that is then used to extend kitchen space will also result in a violation.
3. It’s a mistake to believe that a Certificate of Non-Existence of Urban Infractions means the property is in good, legal standing
Town Hall issues a certificate called the Certificate of Non-Existence of Urban Infractions (Certificado de inexistencia de infracción urbanística). To get this, they only look at the computer and verify that there aren’t any open urban violations against that property.
Do not confuse this with the Certificate of Non-Existence of Infringement, as this is an entirely separate certificate. To get the second certificate, someone from the locality has to visit the house and certify that everything is legal. To avoid confusion, some localities only provide a certificate of the current status. What this means is that they will only certify the current condition of the property when they visit.
4. It’s a mistake to believe that just because a property is recorded in the Land Registry, it is legal
Up until a few years ago, anyone could go to a notary, start an application of a new construction (Obra Nueva) stating that they had a house, and then the Property Registrar would record it in the Land Registry without asking for either a plan or licence.
In these cases, the constructions currently appear registered despite them having never received licensure.
Nowadays, it is not so simple. Now when someone goes to the notary to declare a new building and does not have a license, the notary warns of this in the deed. The Property Registrar informs the administration that a construction without a licence has been registered.
If the construction is more than eight years old and the Right to Order Demolition (orden de demolición) has expired, then it remains registered with the authorities unable to do anything.
In this example, the registered house is actually not in compliance, thus illegal. So, to detect illegalities in Mallorca, you must take a closer look. The Property Registry will not suffice in determining the legal status of a property.
5. It’s a mistake to believe that the Statute of Limitations is the same as legality. Legalization by lapse of time does not exist
This condition is a personal favourite and builds off the previous point: The Statute of Limitations.
The administration loses the right to order restitution to the current state after a few years. Simply put, they cannot demolish the illegal property after a number of years has passed.
But this does not mean that the construction has been legalized by the passage of time.
The administration wouldn’t be able to order a demolition of the property, but it would still be illegal. This means, you would never be able to get a licence to renovate or change that property because it remains illegal. So, the property will either eventually deteriorate or you’ll be forced to repair and renovate without any licensure. At which point the statute of limitations period would start again.
It’s important to note that since 2018, illegal constructions on rural land are no longer subject to the statute of limitations.
6. It’s a mistake to believe that violations on properties built before 1956 are undetectable
The law says that anything built on rural land before 1956 is legal. This law applies even if it’s in a protected area or the minimum plot size requirements are not met. Despite this, if the property has been modified without a licence after 1956, it may now be illegal.
Aerial photos are used to determine when the property was built. In order to uncover potential violations, one must have access to those files dated before and after 1956.
Even if the property is legal, its usage cannot be changed. To expand, a stable or storage room must remain a stable or storage room and is not allowed to be transformed into a residence. If done so without authorization, the use of the repurposed space will not be permitted.
7. It’s a mistake to believe that rural plots with less than 14,000 square meters are automatically presumed to be illegal
This is not true either. Today, 14,000 square meters is the minimum plot requirement to build a house in a rural area, but this has not always been the case. In the past, 3,000 or 7,000 square meters were sufficient, in some localities. Also, there have been varying rules which, at certain times, allowed licenses to be issued.
On a related note, for a couple of years, there was a law called the Amnesty Law, which allowed the legalization of all constructions built without a license so long as they did not have open files for violations. Therefore, a house built on a plot of land with less than 14,000 square meters could have been legalized during this period through said law.
Further, any construction built before 1956 is considered legal, regardless of plot size, so long as the property remains unmodified.
Apart from the above explanations, any construction on a rural plot of land with less than 14,000 square meter is potentially in violation, but this can only be made certain with a licensure check.
Uncovering violations in Mallorca is crucial and, unless you are confidently familiar with all the potential property violations, it’s no easy task.
To that end, it’s vital to find an independent, impartial lawyer to advise you in the process. It doesn’t matter so much who the lawyer is, but how they represent you. Be sure to find someone that is independent and fights for your side.